In recent years, while the hard coolers are having their resurgence, an upsurge in the popularity of soft coolers can also be seen. The main reason behind it is its lightweight, portability, and versatility. Whether you are planning a road trip or a camping excursion, a soft cooler can prove to be your perfect companion to keep your food fresh and drinks chilled.
Choosing a soft cooler may look like an easy task, but a wrong selection can land you in hot water. So, to help you pick the right one, we researched and tested dozens of coolers and came up with the best ones. Let’s take a look at our top picks for the best soft cooler for camping.
- Best Soft Coolers for Camping
- Buyer’s Guide To Choose The Best Soft Cooler For Camping
Best Soft Coolers for Camping
1. CleverMade SnapBasket Tanhoe Collapsible Cooler
The CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag is a smart space-saving solution. It is strong, sturdy, and comes with a lot of useful features. CleverMade is known to produce exceptional innovative products and this cooler is no exception.
- The soft-sided cooler has the capacity to accommodate around 50 cans of your drink along with ice.
- The most attractive feature of this SnapBasket cooler is its collapsible ability. You can simply fold it down to less than 3 inches which makes it convenient to store and transport.
- It is a well-structured cooler. It comes with a steel wire frame on the top, a solid base, and on the sides, there are patented SnapHinge.
- You will find handles on the top and sides too to easily carry it around. For lighter loads, you can use the upper handles. If your cooler is fully packed and heavy, then you can use the side handles to go easy on your arms and back.
- For best-in-class cooling, it comes with 3 layers of leakproof insulation. To create a tight and perfect seal, the insulating layers are finished with a sonically welded PEVA.
- We usually remember to take the drinks, but forget to carry an opener along. But, you don’t have to worry about it now because the cooler comes with an integrated bottle opener.
- For additional convenience, the cooler has got two pockets to keep your valuables. There is a zippered pocket in the front and a mesh pocket at the back.
- 3 layers of leakproof insulation.
- Collapsible for convenient transport and storage.
- Large capacity.
- SnapHinge Technology.
- Integrated bottle opener.
- 2 pockets.
- There is a lack of shoulder strap making it inconvenient to carry the cooler hands-free.
2. YETI Hopper M30 Portable Soft Cooler
Before you scoff looking at the price of this YETI cooler, let me tell you something first. It may be a bit high priced, but it is amongst the best well-built, high performance, and durable coolers in the market. It is right that there are some low-priced options too which can provide you with similar cooling. But, with my personal experience and testing, I can tell you that at the time when other soft coolers begin to fall apart, this one will not even show a vague sign of wear. Let’s find what this cooler has got to offer us.
- What shows that this cooler is much more durable and long-lasting than any other cooler is its warranty. The manufacturers are so confident about the quality of their product that they offer 3 years warranty. On the other hand, most of the other manufacturers only offer one year warranty only.
- One of the features that I liked the most in this cooler is that it has replaced zippers with magnets. There is the use of powerful magnets (HydroShield technology) that create an ultra leak-resistant shield.
- For easy access, there is a wide opening.
- The company adds dual, Quick-Release Buckles to the cooler. It ensures that this YETI doesn’t open unexpectedly on a slight fall or when tossed onto a truck or boat.
- Thanks to the closed-cell foam insulation that this cooler offers much superior cold-holding than any other ordinary one.
- For a leakproof interior, there is the use of RF welded seams which replaces stitching.
- The exterior is waterproof and is strong enough to resist punctures. It is UV resistant too.
- Every handle and pickup point is double-stitched which provides the strength to the hopper to carry heavyweights.
- HydroShield Technology for providing a leak-resistant shield.
- Well-built, durable, and sturdy structure.
- Wide-opening for easy access.
- Dual, Quick-Release buckles to prevent the unexpected opening of cooler.
- Waterproof and UV-resistant.
- Double-stitched carry options.
- RF welded seams.
- Comes with 3 years warranty.
- A bit heavy.
- High priced.
3. IceMule Pro Cooler
IceMule Pro Cooler is engineered to offer high-performance along with durability, and portability. This compact soft cooler is one of the ideal choices for a backpacking, hiking, or camping trip. It offers plenty of essential useful features which makes it a good contender on our list.
- The cooler bag has the capacity to hold around 23 liters of volume or, we can say, 18 cans with ice.
- Carrying this lightweight, backpack-style cooler down the trail is much less sweaty than any other cooler. The 2 padded shoulder straps with air mesh and sternum strap make the bag easy to carry. It even leaves our arms free to grab other gear.
- The roll-top design of the cooler makes it easy to open the mouth wide and load it up. It even allows easy access to the inside contents.
- You will find bungee straps at the front of this bag that allows you to clip additional accessories.
- Even storing this bag is pretty convenient as it is fully collapsible and rolls down for easy storage.
- The cooler has the capability to retain solid ice for over 24 hours, thanks to the PolarLayer Insulation.
- The ultra-tough Muleskin exterior as well as interior takes care of the toughness, strength, and temperature maintenance.
- As if the cooler was not already perfect, the company has even made it float. Welded seams and zipper-less closure makes the cooler 100% waterproof and leakproof allowing it to float alongside a kayak.
- Buoyant, and waterproof.
- 24+ hours of cooling.
- Roll-top design for easy access.
- Hands-free carrying design.
- Rugged and tough built.
- Collapsible for easy storage.
- Could be better insulated.
4. AO Coolers Traveler Soft Cooler
Do you have a low budget and want to buy a cooler which is compact and works decently? Then, this AO Cooler is the most budget-friendly cooler on our list. Don’t go on its low price and looks. It may not have a laminated exterior or any waterproof zippers, but it still provides decent cooling and performs well.
- This AO Cooler Deluxe series offers two size variants:
- 12 cans along with 5 pounds of ice.
- 24 cans along with 12 pounds of ice.
- The cooler has the capacity to hold ice for about 24 hours when the weather condition is up to 120 degrees.
- The quality of the cooler is also nice. There is the use of high-quality TPU liner in this cooler. It is usually the same material used in the construction of waterbeds as well as above ground pools. This makes the cooler impact, tear, and abrasion-resistant.
- The cooler is capable enough to keep your food and drinks cool and fresh because of its good inner insulation. It has got 3/4 inch thick, high-density, closed-cell foam inner insulation.
- For storing essential items, the deluxe cooler model comes with 2 extended dry pockets on the outside.
- For convenience, the cooler has removable shoulder straps and clip-down ends.
- Thick insulation.
- The exterior lining is durable.
- Removable shoulder straps.
- Comes with two extended side pockets.
- Folds flat for storage.
- Duffle style handles.
- The zipper and exterior are not waterproof.
- The shoulder strap is a bit short.
- Inconsistencies in stitching.
5. Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze
Arctic Titan Deep Freeze is a worthy contender on our list. It is a tough model that provides great cooling no matter where you are camping. The cooler has got pretty amazing features which makes it your perfect chilling companion for camping.
- The cooler is really a good one with the capability to hold the ice for up to 3 days.
- For providing superior cooling, the cooler offers high-performance insulation with a radiant heat barrier. The barrier reflects the heat instead of absorbing it.
- What adds more to the cooling is the triple layer ColdBlock base.
- You don’t need to worry about unexpected spillages, thanks to the leakproof lining of the cooler.
- For allowing quick and easy access and to save you from the trouble of dealing with a zipper, the cooler features a “flip-open” patented zipper-less lid.
- The exterior is also durable and strong. There is the incorporation of Rhino-Tech exterior in this cooler which makes it tough as well as water and stain-resistant. You can simply wipe the exterior clean.
- On the interior, you will find a durable HardBody liner along with SmartShelf. The work of the SmartShelf is to separate the hard stuff, like drink cans, from soft foodstuffs, like sandwiches. This will prevent the crushing of soft food items under the hard ones. If you don’t want to use the SmartShelf, you can easily remove it and use the whole compartment as one.
- For providing you comfort and convenience, the cooler comes with an adjustable Backsave shoulder strap. The strap is equipped with an anti-slip shoulder pad that reduces muscle stress.
- Easy access zipperless lid.
- Radiant heat barrier for superior cooling.
- Triple-layer ColdBlock base.
- HardBody liner with SmartShelf.
- Leakproof design.
- Rhino-Tech tough exterior which is water and stain-resistant.
- Adjustable Backsaver shoulder straps.
- Exterior zippered pockets.
- Not the most durable one.
- Not suitable for bottles. Works well if you put standard-sized cans. It is because if you will stand the bottle vertically, then it will lift the zipper-less lid reducing the cooling efficiency.
Buyer’s Guide To Choose The Best Soft Cooler For Camping
When it comes to choosing the best soft cooler for camping, there are a few factors that you should keep in your mind. In the interest of making the selection process easier for you, we have written this guide. It covers all the essential factors that you need to know.
The first and foremost factor that you should look for in your camping cooler is its weight. You are going to carry a lot of stuff in your cooler. So, if your cooler weighs heavy on its own, then it will be difficult for you to carry it fully loaded to your camping site.
Some high-end coolers may cost a little bit high, but provide a cooler fabric that is durable and lightweight. Investing in a lightweight cooler with high durability is worth the cost. It is because you will be able to carry more cargo without getting over-burdened.
These days, lighter coolers are also highly durable because of the use of premium quality material.
Unlike a cooler that you use at home, you should focus more on portability while choosing a camping cooler. When it comes to portability, weight is obviously a vital factor which we have already discussed. In addition to the weight, the shape of the cooler and handle arrangement also play a crucial role.
When you are carrying a fully-loaded heavy cooler to a short distance, the sturdy side handles can be of great help. When taking the cooler over a long distance or carrying lighter loads, shoulder straps can prove to be useful. Especially, when you have a lot of other camping gear to carry, a cooler with straps will keep your hands free.
What good is a cooler for you if it doesn’t have enough capacity to carry all your stuff? When choosing a camping cooler, always think about how much storage capacity you need to fit your cargo. The storage space you need mainly depends on how much time you’ll be spending on your outdoor expedition. A safe estimate is to go for a cooler with a minimum capacity of 20 cans.
A higher storage capacity cooler will allow you to carry more ice. Carrying more ice will result in an increase in cooling time also. But, do remember, extra-large capacity coolers will be heavy and difficult to carry. They will even take up more space. So, make a decision as per your need.
In addition to the space that a cooler can accommodate, another thing to consider is the space that the cooler is going to take up. If you are on a backpacking or hiking trip, go for a small-sized cooler.
Also, check the collapsible size of the cooler before buying it. While a majority of coolers can only collapse to a few inches, there are some which can simply flat-fold or rolled for easy storage. Going for a cooler that can flat-fold or rolled even makes it convenient to transport taking up much less space.
The most important factor to consider is the insulation. After all, if your cooler is not capable enough to keep your food fresh and drinks chilled, then it defeats the basic purpose of having a cooler. Hence, pay extra attention to the insulation.
Check how many layers of insulation do the cooler is offering. More layers result in better insulation. But, also remember that more layers will make your cooler bulky and it will even take up more space.
Also check, whether the cooler has any radiant heat barrier or not. The barrier will not allow external heat to affect the cooling inside.
All the coolers may or may not be equipped with the following additional features. But, depending on your need and preference, having these additional features in your cooler will make your user experience even better.
- Shoulder Strap: A shoulder strap can be very useful when carrying less weight or when you are carrying your cooler to a remote place. The shoulder strap is a practical addition to the cooler as it will allow you to keep your hands free to carry other camping stuff.
- Pockets: Pockets on the cooler will allow you to keep your small valuables protected. It will also save you from the trouble of carrying an extra bag for small accessories.
- Shelf: If you don’t want your drinks to squash your food, then a shelf will help you separate the hard stuff from the soft ones.
- Liner: A hard liner can help provide support as well as protection to the cooler’s content. A removable liner even makes it easy to clean.
- Bungee Cord: It is a helpful addition that allows you to clip and carry additional accessories, clothing, or bulkier items with you.
- Bottle Opener: we usually forget to carry small items like a bottle opener with us. So, having an in-built bottle opener can be highly-helpful and a space-saver too.
To keep your favorite food fresh and to enjoy chilled drinks surrounded by nature’s beauty on a camping trip, a soft cooler is a fantastic piece of equipment you should always carry.
Each of the models that we discussed in our list has got some amazing features. But our absolute favorite is the CleverMade SnapBasket Tanhoe Collapsible Cooler.
We consider this one as the best soft cooler for camping. This is because it covers most of the factors that we discussed in our buyer’s guide. Not only it is a durable product, but also conveniently collapsible as well as leakproof. It has a capacity to accommodate 50 cans with ice which is ideal for a family camping trip. It is a well-structured cooler with a steel wire frame at the top and a solid base. For convenience, the cooler features an integrated bottle opener, pockets at front and back, and carry handles on the top as well as sides. It provides such astonishing features at just a fraction of the price of some of the big brand name coolers. And that’s why this one is my favourite. If you have a high budget, then you can also go for YETI Hopper M30.